The tortured Internet undoing of YouTuber Marina Joyce
“It’s a common thing for misinformation to be spread on the Internet,” one of her friends said.
So, as someone who has no stake in this mess - I didn’t know this girl’s name until it started monopolizing my Twitter timeline yesterday - I’ve been watching it unfold with an almost forensic socioanthropological interest. And this article goes a long way toward summarizing my observations.
For what it’s worth, her fans have a point. Weird shit is/was clearly going down. And now, her own responses seem to point to her taking a certain amount of pleasure in the fact that she garnered so much publicity that she could turn into revenue from this incident - which, at best, indicates a blatant disregard for fans who were giving themselves coronaries about her welfare, and at worst indicates that this was the sickest kind of publicity stunt. So yeah, there’s clearly a lot at play there.
That hashtag was a royal mess.
And this is symptomatic of a much larger problem in fan communities in general, one that’s become particularly acute in YouTube fandoms. The porous, fourth-wall-free space on YouTube affords us a deeper connection with the content creators we follow. We feel we’ve bonded with them. And in some ways, we’re right.
But we need to, as a fandom - not as Marina Joyce’s fandom, but as fans of YouTube creators - sharpen the shit out of our understanding of boundaries.
Look, I don’t know Marina Joyce from a hole in the ground. Her behavior seems strange as hell to me, as it does to the people who actually follow her. I’m not willing to discount any possibility, from drugs to mental illness to criminal activity to a shitty partner. But both she and law enforcement have both attested to her welfare. And that needs to be adequate.
There are many, many explanations for what’s actually going on here, and seeing her fans work themselves up into a tizzy over sleuthing out the root cause really hurts to see, because I know firsthand how painful that level of anxiety for someone you love can be. But the bottom line is this:
She says she’s okay. And even if that’s a lie, it’s hers to tell.
I know that’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth, and there is no respectful alternative than to accept it.
Whatever is going on with her may be (indeed, probably is) extremely private. I would certainly be reticent to discuss the nitty gritty of my private life with hundreds of thousands of people, and I’d become that much less so as people inundated me with actual demands that I “prove” my okay-ness to them.
If this were a bigger YouTuber - if this were Grace Helbig or Shane Dawson or the Vlogbrothers or Lilly Singh or Joey Graceffa - if it was their mentions on Twitter or their Tumblr tags that were full to bursting with this kind of desperate, pained analysis, we’d be on that shit like white on rice about respecting the privacy of content creators. That Marina Joyce is younger, that she has a smaller channel, the demographical composition of her audience - none of those should vacate her right to keep whatever is going on to herself. Her behavioral changes are certainly cause for concern, but they do not negate her right to privacy. And in this case, lines between simple concern and parasocial interaction-driven obsessional behavior have been pole-vaulted over.
And that shit needs to come to an end. Now.